The Big 5 is one of the most commonly used groupings of personality traits in modern psychology. It was derived by using statistical factor analysis on personality survey data, which reveals semantic associations between the words people use to describe the personality of other people.
In other words, when people talk about the personality of another person, all of the different terms they use could be grouped into five categories, each of which represents a spectrum or continuum of common temperamental traits.
Since succeeding as a startup founder is without a doubt a very challenging endeavor, it is important to be familiar with your own character and to understand how to channel your strengths and counteract your weaknesses.
So, here is how the big 5 personality traits help or hinder startup founders:
The tendency to be organized and dependable. On one end of the scale are highly organized and efficient people, on the other – carefree and easy-going people.
The two widely accepted facets of the conscientiousness trait are industriousness and orderliness.
As is the case with most non-artistic professional environments, a high degree of conscientiousness is important for long-term success as a startup founder. Unconscientious founders tend to abandon projects as their level of enthusiasm wanes or to get buried in chaos if they are not methodical enough to deal with their to-do list efficiently enough.
If you are not conscientious, it might be a good idea to find a co-founder or partner who is. This way you can rely on them to push you forward when your internal motivation isn’t sufficient.
While a lack of orderliness can be compensated for by outside factors, this is harder to do for a low level of industriousness. Being a successful founder requires an action-focused, can-do attitude. If you are not a problem solver by nature, you’d need to actively work to acquire this trait, or you’ll find the day-to-day life of a founder challenging.
An agreeable person tends to be compassionate and polite, while a disagreeable person is more comfortable with interpersonal conflict.
In reality, a good startup team needs people on both ends of the spectrum.
That said, being an innovator by definition means you are doing something other people aren’t. Consequently, a lot of people would tell you that what you want to do can’t or shouldn’t be done. So, it’s important not to care too much about the general opinion of people (while of course listening closely to rational feedback).
Moreover, as the team leader, you would often get into hard conversations with your team members concerning pay, performance, and even belonging to the team. If you are a very compassionate person, such situations might become emotionally exhausting.
Openness is the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and most importantly – preference for novelty.
Needless to say, being a startup founder requires a high degree of openness. Being comfortable with novelty is crucial, as novelty would be your day-to-day life if you want to be an innovator.
If you are too cautious by nature and you require routine and stability to feel good, then you’d likely lack the risk tolerance that would help you deal with the highly volatile nature of startups.
Highly neurotic people are more predisposed toward nervousness and anxiety.
Needless to say, startups are often highly-uncertain professional environments, which could naturally lead to high levels of stress for more neurotic people.
This doesn’t mean that being neurotic makes you unfit for a founder. It might even help in certain situations – it could push you to take care of risk factors that other people would ignore.
That said, it might mean that if you are neurotic by nature, all things considered being a founder might be an emotionally unpleasant experience. This could decrease your overall quality of life. You need to decide if handling the levels of stress is worth it.
Extraversion is the tendency to seek the company of others.
Being highly extroverted helps a lot in one area – constantly staying in touch with your clients, partners, and other stakeholders. Obviously, high extraversion means that you would feel much more comfortable selling your ideas and products to hundreds of people – something you’d have to do as a founder.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that introverts are hopeless founders. Some of the best technical innovators (interested in things rather than people) are introverts. For example, Bill Gates is a self-proclaimed introvert.
That said, measuring low on the extraversion scale means that you would have to go out of your zone of comfort on a daily basis.
For good or bad, people-focused activities like sales and people management are an inseparable part of being a founder.